My name is Clemma and I am writing about my experience with the Dexcom Seven continuous glucose monitoring system. I live in Minneapolis with my young son and my not so young husband. I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes 11 years ago, when I was almost 21 years old. I started pumping 7 years ago, first with a Minimed 508, then an Animas IR1200, and now with the OmniPod. Friday, June 29 I hooked up to my newest constant companion, the one and only Comrade Dex...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Adventures with LifeScan customer service

Disclaimer: I sat on this for a week without posting it because it's a long rant that I wrote when I was mad and I thought I might want to tone it down. Nope - I'm still mad, so here it is.

Last Sunday morning I wake up and try to do a finger stick test so I can calibrate the Dexcom. "ER 4". Ooops, maybe that's one of those not-enough-blood, or one of those you-idiot-wait-for-the-blood-drop-prompt messages. Try again. "ER 4". And again "ER 4". Screw it. Wait a couple more hours. Try again. "ER 4". Where the heck is my OneTouch Ultra manual? Can't find it. Oh, there's the OneTouch Ultra2 manual, the meter I really prefer but can't use because for some messed up reason they only synced the technology with the plain old Ultra. Still, the error messages are probably the same, right? Look up "ER 4". To summarize: 1) High glucose and a cold tester; 2) Test strip problem; 3) Sample was improperly applied; or 4) Meter problem. OK, I have been using OneTouch meters for 6 years, and I know how to properly insert the test strip and apply the sample. I suppose there is a slim chance it got cold, lying there under my pillow during the night, so I stick it in my pocket to warm it up. Try again "ER 4". Screw it and wait a few more hours. Realize I have to call Lifescan customer service because the thing is going to quit on me if I don't calibrate soon.

Now the fun really begins. I happen to know I initiated the call to Lifescan at approximately noon. They have an annoying voicemail maze before you are awarded the honor of being on hold for a customer service representative. I sat there on hold for quite a while, gosh, maybe 10 minutes. I got bored and started painting my living room while holding the phone to my ear (I really have to get a headset for times like this). About 30 minutes later I remarked to my sister that I thought this might be the longest on-hold experience of my life, but I was making good progress on the baseboard trim. Twenty minutes later, after one full hour on hold, I estimated that I had listened to their canned message telling me how much they appreciate my patience at least 20 times. Oh - and did I know they are on call for my needs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? I know smart people have done research showing we customers prefer occasional recorded reminders that we haven't been cut off, but by this point the recorded voice only reminded me how completely my patience had gone away.

After 75 minutes my sister speculated that they don't actually have any customer service agents working on a Sunday, and they just use that recording hoping we'll get annoyed, hang up, and call back on a week day. I am nearly done with the living room trim by now, and I have a crick in my neck from holding the phone, and I am really, really, mad. BUT I stay on the phone because what else can I do? I have no other way to calibrate the meter, and the clock is ticking on my very expensive sensor!

As mad as I was, I tried to temper my rage when the hapless customer service representative finally did pick up the call after NINETY MINUTES on hold. I like to assume that this is not her preferred career, and have compassion that her idiot bosses didn't hire enough staff to, well, SERVE their CUSTOMERS. Actually, she had to wait for me for a couple minutes, because I had finally let my sister hold the phone while I used the facilities. Now, this was a nice woman. She went through the protocol and fairly quickly told me a replacement meter would arrive on Tuesday. Part of her protocol is she has to ask questions about whether the glitch in the product caused any actual medical calamity. Did I have to alter my medication because of the problem? Did I have any adverse reactions to too much or not enough medication because of the problem? Well, no, I guess not, I mean I still took my insulin and I didn't pass out or go into ketoacidosis, but where is the question about how much money it will cost me to go three days on this sensor with no way to calibrate the system? Since she didn't even know what the Dexcom CGMS was, I wasn't surprised she didn't ask about the financial ramifications of the meter failure.

Before I end this rant, let me just make sure you noted that last point. This CGMS system, which requires us to use a Lifescan OneTouch Ultra meter, is totally unknown to at least one of the customer service representatives who answer the phone if you have meter problems. Does that seem weird to anyone else? It seems weird to me, but maybe I'm still reeling from the paint fumes I inhaled while hyperventilating from on-hold rage.

The key takeaway here is: try to convince your Dexcom rep to send you two new OneTouch Ultra meters when you buy the system. This is the first time I had a OneTouch meter fail, but it cost me at least 3 days of my sensor, which was extremely vexing. Also, don't have the poor planning to EVER need Lifescan customer service on a weekend.


kath said...

Then there's anal me, that not only has her own spare Ultra meter, but keeps it in her emergency kit.

Bernard said...


I give you an A+ for patience. I'd had given up long before 90 minutes was up.

My OneTouch is holding up well to the abuse of being used since March. So far no problems. Now that I know I'll take extra care of it and I'll be sure to only break it on weekdays!

Anonymous said...

My OneTouch that came with my Dex had a dead battery after only 1 month of using it. I opened up the back to see what type of battery is used it was one of those weird flat ones that not any store will carry. After some frustration I remembered that I had a OneTouch Ultra 2 in my closet. So, I tried synching that with my Dexcom, but that didn't work. Then as a last resort I opened up the back of the OneTouch 2 and viola! It used 2 of those batteries! Now I have a spare. LOL

Pertinax said...

You rant beautifully, Clemma. Your funnel metaphor from another posting should be anthologized somewhere.

I am considering the Dexcom Seven but intend to wait until I hear more from you about it. Meanwhile I will wait for all your other comments on the whole wide world. You certainly win the multitasker award for dealing with customer service. What can you paint while you're blogging? "Cornfield with Blackbirds"?

Pertinax said...

I'm new at this blogging thing and obviously a bit slow as well. Only now do I notice that all of the entries about the Dexcom Seven ended last fall. Do you have anything to say about it now, five months later? Does your silence mean you have settled into a contented life with the thing ... or have thrown it over completely?